I looked out the window as the train made its way toward Chippewa Falls, John Robert and Ellie beside me. We had been on the train for two days, and the children were getting restless, eager to be wherever we were going.
I knew that we would be there soon, and was growing more and more nervous. What would Jack say when he saw me? Would he be glad to see me? Would he be angry? What if he wasn't in Chippewa Falls anymore?
There was only one way to find out. When the train at last pulled into the station in Chippewa Falls, I gathered our bags and led the children from the train, John Robert holding Ellie's hand. When we were standing on the crowded platform, I looked around, wondering where to go next. I knew no one in town but Jack, and nothing was familiar to me.
Finally, I led the children away from the platform to a nearby general store. Surely someone there would know where I might find Jack, or if not him, at least a place to stay.
The man who owned the store looked at me a little oddly when I asked about Jack. Of course, it was unusual for a young woman with children in tow to come into town looking for someone, but he told me where to find him anyway.
"Go to the western edge of town, ma'am. He lives at 105 Willow Street."
I thanked him and picked up the bags again, John Robert and Ellie trailing slowly behind me, and started across town.
The baby giggled, her tiny feet kicking at the air, as her father tickled the end of her nose. He laughed, too, catching one foot and pumping it up and down.
Jack looked up as his wife of one year came into the room, draping her apron over a chair. "What's going on, love?"
"We have guests."
He stood up, surprised. No one was expected.
"Who is it?"
"I don't know. Some lady with two children."
Jack looked from his wife to his daughter, a sudden sinking feeling going through him as he realized who the visitor must be.
I took a deep breath as I opened the gate and walked toward the house, instructing the children to stay at the gate until I called for them.
I looked around as I walked, noticing how well-kept the yard was. Jack had done well for himself. I was about to step up on the porch and knock when Jack opened the door and stepped outside.
I moved toward him, smiling, until I realized that someone else had stepped out with him. A beautiful, dark-haired woman with a blonde-haired baby in her arms stood beside him, looking at me suspiciously.
He glanced back at her briefly. "Go on in, love. I'll…take care of things."
Glancing at me again, the woman went back inside, but soon appeared at the window, the baby still cradled in her arms. I looked at Jack.
He nodded. "Yes."
I could hardly speak past the lump that had suddenly risen in my throat. "Congratulations."
"Thank you. Rose, I…"
"Good-bye, Jack." I stepped away, turning back toward my children. "Be happy."
He took a few steps after me, but I didn't stop. Escorting my children out the gate, I looked back one more time.
His face was a mask of sorrow and indecision, but I knew what to do now. Turning away, I took the children by the hands and walked away.
"Rose! Rose, wait!"
But I just kept walking, never looking back.